A New Look at Leadership

Experience the economy differently and positively. Reconcile economic and social values. Exchange in order to build together . These aspirations expressed by Emmanuel Faber (The CEO of Danone) lead to changing a certain conception – often mistaken – of leadership, to re-establish the etymological definition of the economy (“oikos nomia”) that is to say, the art of living together. Experiencing the economy in a different way, is first an invitation to a humane path in which we listen with the heart. To develop ones leadership, is it not also to reconnect with authenticity and kindness?

Leadership: Innate or learned?

“This is a leader.” This sentence sounds like an absolute and definitive truth. It is enough to validate the idea that leadership is an innate gift. This belief is both true and false. The leader is a leader because they easily generate excitement, because they naturally cause a wave of admiration, they unite and influence the group naturally. Their natural ease with themself and others means they shine and attract loyalty. Sometimes this natural charisma develops very early, sometimes it is a neglected potential. The deployment of leadership relies less on spontaneity than on circumstantial events. To create the circumstances that could give expression to leadership: that is the challenge. For leadership is not management, even if the confusion often persists. One – Management – involves knowledge, skill, mastery and technical skill, the other – Leadership- requires letting go, sensitivity, energy and authenticity. One often reads that a good manager is one who is able to lead people, to create enthusiasm and commitment. This definition of good management is actually an expression of leadership. This ability to drive people is primarily related to the behavior and inherent personality of the manager.

Proof by example

As such, the intervention of Emmanuel Faber (Danone CEO) at the graduation of HEC students, is a lesson in leadership. His speech is explosive, he brakes with convention, he shakes expectations. Starting by briefly describing the journey of a man who turns out to be his brother, indicating with modesty, his personal fragility, recalling how his ordeals have made him question himself deeply, Emmanuel Faber captures our attention, offers a rare and metaphysical testimony. How could the following questions not unsettle young graduates embarking on their professional lives: “Who is your little brother? Where is your weakness? What are your actions built upon? What has meaning for you? “. Emmanuel Faber gives a demonstration of leadership: his aura extends as we understand that his weaknesses have built his strengths. His authenticity and natural sincerity demand empathy and trust. Emmanuel Faber has understood that personal experience, authenticity and uniqueness bring about humanity, and that this alone can allow us to move, to attract and to resonate with our colleagues, our listeners, our parteners.

What place for the personal in the professional sphere?

The need for leadership is well established today. Yet that same leadership is too often the poor relation to training. The reasons are many, including: how can a teacher bring what is given or denied to everyone else? How to impose from outside that which, anyway, tends to be personal? If leadership is primarily a manifestation of the personal and the result of a personal alignment in the professional sphere, it is not easliy accessible for leaders and managers who often feel bullied. Restrained by professionalism, they fail to “be themselves within the company”. However, revealing a part of our personality, moving forward with our strengths and making room for our uniqueness enables the manager to thrive and develop his aura, his influence and therefore, his leadership.

How to unlock our aura

Leadership is also the combination of a personality and circumstances conducive to establishing new behaviors. It is therefore essential to take a moment of introspection to flick certain switches. Business life too often lead us to wear armour to cope with the stress, the tension and conflict. Yet this armour encloses more than it protects us. Metaphorically, we need to come out of the “diving-suit” impervious to emotion and feelings, to bring out the “dolphin” and gain in authenticity and spontaneity regarding oneself and others . By adopting new behaviors, we open up to others, creating a favorable climate for genuine listening. Because leadership is primarily turned towards others, listening and feeling heard is a major challenge. Developping the best qualities among employees and creating a climate of confidence and emulation are part of leadership.  To do this, it is compelling to opt for the amazing power of the lower position. What can we say? A domineering ego often restricts enterprise and projects, destroys values ​​and collective performance in favour of a personal ambition. Leadership is not built in this way, but rather the opposite. It is based on humility, integrity, kindness and personal commitment.